Book review: American Dirt — by Jeanine Cummins

(Flatiron Books)

Hailed in the book world as the most anticipated book of 2020, “American Dirt” has already won accolades from multiple esteemed writers and critics: Stephen King, Tara Conklin, and more. Hannah Beckerman of The Guardian says “it is hard to imagine there will be a more urgent or politically relevant novel this year.” This work of fiction seeks to put individual faces to the faceless numbers of migrants coming to the United States from Central America. Lydia and her son Luca seek asylum. They survived a cartel attack that killed her entire extended and immediate family; her husband, a journalist, wrote an exposé of its leader. On the run from the book’s harrowing first moments, every situation forces a choice, and every choice is fraught with panicked thoughts. This is a relevant, timely book that will spark discussion and debate, and Cummins, who felt personally compelled to write the story even though she is not a migrant, recognizes that. As recently as Jan. 7, news outlets have reported more than 60,000 people are missing due to Mexico’s drug war, and Mexican officials say the number could be far higher than previously estimated. Amid this reality, the story of “American Dirt” is born.

— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop


8 books from along the Mexican-American border

Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli

The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez, by Aaron Bobrow-Strain

The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henríquez

On the Plain of Snakes, by Paul Theroux

Retablos, by Octavio Solis

Tell Me How It Ends, by Valeria Luiselli

Citizen Illegal, by José Olivarez

Border Wars, by Julie Hirschfeld Davis

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